Artist David Aja first came to comic fans' attention with his work on Marvel's "The Invincible Iron Fist," a series co-written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker. After his run on the book came to an end, he drew a number of short stories and single issues here and there, drawing praise and accolades for his cover art and design work. Aja redesigned many of the characters for the recent relaunch of the Valiant titles. At Marvel, Aja has drawn and designed the covers for a number of miniseries, including "Immortal Weapons," "Red Skull" and "5 Ronin." His current project, for which he's deservedly received a lot of attention and acclaim, is "Hawkeye." Reuniting Aja with his "Iron Fist" partner Matt Fraction, the book looks like no other comic on the stands today. If there was any doubt of this, Issue #11, told from the point of view of Clint Barton's pet, Pizza Dog, will make it clear.

CBR News: Matt Fraction once mentioned that you brought up Hawkeye years ago before you two started working on this book.
David Aja: When we finished "Iron Fist," at that time I think Hawkeye was dead, maybe? I do not really follow a lot [of current series], so I cannot tell you, but he was one of my favorite characters when I was a kid.
How do the two of you work together?

It's very, very collaborative. I love Matt. That's important. We have a really great relationship. Sometimes even before he writes anything, we talk about what is the story going to be about. For example the dog issue started as a joke. [Laughs] Really. We were talking with [Marvel editor] Steve Wacker and messing around and talking about some issue and I said, maybe we should draw one issue from the dog's point of view and I can draw it like how a dog sees. It was a joke. Suddenly, Steve and Matt said, yes, let's do it. [Laughs] He sends me a plot with what happens, sometimes some dialogue and sometimes not -- usually not. Then, I start sketching and I send him the sketches. We start talking about it. For example, do you remember the Christmas issue? In the beginning, it wasn't Christmas. We were talking, and in this first stage we decided to do it at Christmas. I start sketching more and he writes dialogue. When I have the dialogue, I do the final pencils and then I do the final inks. The thing is, I sketch on the computer, so I always have all the text and dialogue. I sketch with them so I can see the whole composition, the text captions and where the balloons are going to be. I write the balloons and do the first lettering on the page so I know exactly how much room I have for drawing, or where the text panel goes. When I'm done, I send the page for lettering to Chris Eliopoulos. There's a great relationship with everything, with Matt, with Chris, and with Matt Hollingsworth, of course. We talk a lot of about the color. It's a very collaborative book. I think it's great. I'm so happy, because everyone is doing their best and we're talking a lot. It's something we are doing all together.

Is there ever a point where you're working and you say to Matt, can you cut some of the words in this scene?

Not really. Like I said, I'm sketching and I know how much room I have, so I try to adapt. Maybe if I see there's too much dialogue for this one panel, I'll have [the dialogue] in three balloons. But as he sees my sketches, he writes the dialogue thinking about those sketches. It's very collaborative. It's unnecessary to fix.

If you send him a sketch of a page with twelve or fifteen panels, he's not going to write hundreds of words of dialogue for that page.
There was one page where the dialogue was written before. It was in issue two, the telephone conversation between Clint and Kate. He came to me with the plot, saying something like, this is that typical boring page where they talk because it's necessary, so maybe two heads or whatever you want. I saw all those words there and I thought, what is this -- a telephone conversation? I hate when sometimes you find two little heads on the page and the rest of the page is dialogue. For example, right now, we're interacting. I cut up every single sentence into very small balloons. It's a comic. Everything you can do to tell it visually, you have to do it visually. Not by words. Pictures are there for a reason. They have to be there for a reason. They have to give you information. The text is saying something, so let's try to say something different with the pictures.
I think we've all read comics where the captions or dialogue explain what we know from looking at the art.
Right. I was talking with someone recently about the Hitchcock book by Truffaut. It's more or less the same thing -- though comics are not the same as movies. It's another medium with its own tools. They talked about, what you can do visually, do not do it with words. There's something in movies that was lost with [the advent of] sound, when people started doing movies with heads explaining everything instead of [showing it] visually.

If you can read the pictures without reading the text, then you have done something right. That's always what I try to do. When I finish a comic, I check the pages and see if everything is understandable. Can you follow the story without balloons? If you can, it's okay. Obviously, the words have a lot of information, very important information, but it has to be complementary in some way, I think.

How long does it take you to draw an issue?

It depends. Mostly a month and a half for both pencils and inks. It's exhausting. The ideal would be to have a couple months or even more. That would be perfect. [Laughs] I lose a lot of time sketching and thinking about the issue, about how to tell the story visually. I like to have the plot and to see the issue as a whole. If you're going to use a grid, then use it through the whole issue and see it in a specific way. For example, in Issue #3, for the car chase scenes, after thinking a lot and doing tons of sketches, I thought of the idea of the grid with little inserts for the arrows and little details that could make the narrative flow. You need to sketch everything before you start doing one page. Again, you need to use the comic structure to tell things, to find a visual way to tell the story. When doing Issue #8 and 9, I was sketching both issues at the same time. Even before I started drawing #8, I finished sketching issue nine because they were related.

Do you and Matt have a plan for how long you'll be staying on "Hawkeye?"

We have thoughts for more issues. Right now, Annie Wu is going to be drawing alternate issues. I'm not going to spoil anything -- let's just say she's going to draw Kate and I'm going to draw Clint. We have ideas for what's happening more or less until Issue #20, and then we will see. We're having fun.

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